18 June 2008

Writers' Support Systems Post

Writing can be a lonely life. Hours spent in front of a computer (or typewriter or notebook) or in a library are hours spent away from other people. Sometimes unfortunate, but often necessary to a successful writing career.

However, it is important for writers to have a support system of writers not only to stave off those feelings of isolation and loneliness, but to share ideas, seek proofreading skills, and to talk shop.

There are, fortunately, lots of options for writers seeking connections with other writers for those brief moments when the Muse ceases her lashings to take a sip of vodka.

Message boards Yes, message boards are everywhere. Like chatrooms, they offer opportunities for posters to contribute to discussions, ask and answer questions, and network with colleagues from anywhere in the World(wide Web). There are message boards for all areas of writing (even areas you probably didn't know existed), and there are people looking for you on those boards to seek your advice, to answer your questions, and to build connections with you. [WARNING: Message boards can be a bit addicting, and while they can be a valuable resource, remember that time spent on message boards is time that is not spent writing. Writers can justify just about anything as "for the craft," so be careful you don't get drawn into the message boards and neglect what you should be doing.]

Email/Internet Friends I met a very, very dear friend through a message board. We email regularly, chat on AIM when we catch each other, support each other's writing careers, and are always there for each other. We've never met in person. Dana and I are online friends, and to be honest, I wouldn't be where I am in my writing life if it weren't for her. When I need advice on a character or plot or setting or timeframe, I send her an email and she's happy (or at least she seems happy) to email me back with answers to questions, advice, criticism, and ego-boosting praise. That connection with another writer can be incredibly helpful. Not only can you take a break from researching or writing to email your friends, but when you have these friendships with other writers, you have someone "in the business" that you can turn to when you have questions, need advice, or simply want to share good (or bad) news with someone who will understand.

Real-life friends Like email/Internet friends, real-life friends are a great source of encouragement, advice, and human interaction. There's nothing like getting a cup of coffee with a friend and chatting about what you're each reading or writing and being able to get away from the computer for a little while. Really, as much fun as it canbe to sit and stare at a computer screen all day, sometimes you just need to get away and be with real people for a while. Friends give you the opportunity to do just that. (Just don't let that coffee date with a friend turn into a huge shopping session that keeps you from finishing your work!)

Writers' workshops Going to workshops is an excellent place to make connections for writers. Not only do you get the opportunity to meet (and learn from) people who could potentially be your editors/publishers, but you have the chance to meet fellow writers who are often in the same position as you and can relate to what you're going through on a personal level. These workshops may lead to some real-life friends mentioned in the above section, and the notes you take a different sessions could be the advice you give to other friends or answers to questions posted on message boards.

Writers' groups Like writers' workshops, writers' groups let writers get feedback on their work, as well as making connections with other writers. Writers' groups are a little different, though, because the group is usually significantly smaller than a workshop, and writers' groups meet regularly, which allows you to form stronger bonds with the people in the groups.

Classes Writers can and should always be learning about their craft. While some of this information can be gleaned from Internet and library research, message boards, friendships, and workshops/writers' groups, some information is best learned in the classroom. Even if you have a degree, it doesn't hurt to take a writing or literature class to brush up on a few things, make some friends in your classmates, and add your professor to your networking address book.

Regardless of how you decide to reach out (and I do recommend more than one method), be sure that you do. Writing is solitary, and people need contact. (Sorry, but talking to your cat while she glares at you from the couch doesn't really count as contact!) After all, where do writers get their stories but from life? And you need to observe and live life if you expect to write about it!

Happy scribbling!

1 comment:

  1. I would LOVE to write full-time but I'm afraid I do not have the type of persaonlity that makes me stick with it for any length of time. I write for a month, then take a few months off. I've been 'writing' the same book for 12 years. I think my problem is that I feel the need to re-edit myself everytime I pick it back up and then by the time I'm done i'm to tired.

    I think that's why I like the blogging. i only have to stay focused for an hour or so and I can switch topics quickly.

    Stephen Ambrose spent 5 years writing his Nixon biography and I think even longer on Eisenhower. Now I know why I didn't become a historian!


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